Arkansas Man Receives World’s First Whole Eye and Partial Face Transplant, Bringing New Hope

NYU Langone Health in New York creates a world’s first surgery by performing the world’s first whole-eye transplant in a living person, Aaron James, who was a victim of an unfortunate accident at work. After losing his left eye and part of his face, James was given a new whole-eye as well as a partial face transplant. The surgery included transplanting the entire left eye and parts of the face from a single donor. Aaron’s eye is now showing “remarkable” signs of health, according to his medical team. Although he can’t see out of the eye, he remains hopeful that vision might come with time and that his first-of-its-kind procedure may help advance transplant medicine.

Aaron James, based in Arkansas, worked as a high-voltage power lineman, and one night in June 2021, he was working with his colleagues in Mississippi when his face accidentally touched a live wire. The deadly 7,200-volt electric shock caused extensive injuries that ultimately led to his groundbreaking surgery.

The first time Aaron saw himself after the accident was from his hospital bed in Dallas. He asked his wife Meagan to take a photo, and the moment highlighted the long road ahead of them. Meagan and their daughter, Allie, saw their lives change dramatically, driving long hours to be by Aaron’s side, through medical centers’ visits and multiple surgeries.

They remained hopeful when discussions around the possibility of a transplant continued even after Aaron’s medical team in Texas had removed his left eye due to severe pain. His colleagues in New York asked the Texas team to preserve as much of the optic nerve as possible in hopes of a potential eye transplant.

They finally got the chance to perform the whole-eye and partial facial transplant. This marked a monumental moment in the medical field, as no medical team in the world had previously performed a successful human eye transplant in a living patient. Surgeons put their skills and expertise to the test, involving a surgical team of more than 140 of the best surgeons the world can offer.

With Meagan by his side, Aaron remains positive and looks forward to the potential of this procedure advancing transplant medicine. But the couple has already made it through what may be the most difficult part — after all, they’ve just been through “an ecstatic, happy, and strange feeling,” Meagan said.


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